Death of Cancer Wellness Support founder

Robyn Yates: Her work helped thousands of people with cancer.

Robyn Yates: Her work helped thousands of people with cancer.

Robyn Yates OAM, founder of the unique organisation known as Cancer Wellness Support, was a tower of strength, offering comfort, counsel and hope to hundreds of people with cancer.

Robyn, who died last month aged 69, founded Blue Mountains Cancer Help (now called Cancer Wellness Support) and proved how grit and drive can change lives.

It was her determination to offer complementary therapies to cancer clients that led to her gathering a group of like-minded people together in 2005 to form Blue Mountains Cancer Help.

In the past 15 years, the organisation has provided thousands of affordable therapies to people living with cancer, their carers and families throughout the Mountains and Penrith Valley areas.

It has helped thousands of people to cope with their diagnosis and to feel supported by their local community.

Each year, an average of 5,000 group and individual treatments are provided, including acupuncture, massage, lymphoedema management, naturopathy and counselling.

Numerous patients have felt able to take control of their lives through Cancer Wellness Support, thanks to the work started by Robyn, who died on November 27 after a four-year battle with motor neurone disease.

And the whole operation is funded largely from the proceeds of two extremely successful op shops in Katoomba and Penrith, as well as community and corporate sponsorships and grants.

The volunteers at the op shops give more than 39,000 hours of their time each year. This allows the organisation to contribute to the subsidised therapies for their clients.

Cancer Wellness Support board secretary, Kevin Stapleton, said of Robyn: "She was an inspiration when dealing with people at a very vulnerable time, often when they had just received their diagnosis of cancer... It was not only because of her nursing background or having worked in palliative care but she had that extra empathy with clients that immediately put their fears and concerns at ease."

In 2015, when she was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia, she told the Gazette: "The thing that really floats my boat is when I see a person transformed from someone who is anxious and vulnerable when they come in the door.

"And then, when they start accessing our services or going to groups, they regain control and confidence and can actually see a future for themselves."

Robyn was a proud mother and grandmother and a fanatical tap dancer. She was even tripping the light fantastic at a Cancer Wellness fundraiser in Wentworth Falls just last year.

Her son Kirby, in his eulogy, said Robyn was "the most selfless human being I've ever known. She was constantly working tirelessly for others and was the epitome of a silent achiever."

As a mother "she was loving, committed and courageous" and as a grandmother she was "superhuman".

Robyn is survived by her husband, Bob, children Kirby and Emily, and her three grandchildren.

Cancer Wellness Support is based at the newly named Robyn Yates Centre, 104-105 Railway Parade, Leura. See cancerwellness.org.au.

She was an inspiration when dealing with people at a very vulnerable time, often when they had just received their diagnosis of cancer.

Kevin Stapleton